• !5-inch Rodman Cannon

    Civil War Defenses of Washington

    District of Columbia

Civil War Defenses of Washington Sites Outside NPS Ownership

A number of forts that are not within NPS units are owned and managed by other public agencies in the Washington, D.C. area. Most of the Civil War forts and batteries have been lost to urban and suburban development, but the following have survived to the present.

Fort Ward
Historic Fort Ward and the Fort Ward Museum are within a 45-acre site in the city of Alexandria, Virginia. The city initiated the preservation of the fort in 1961 as a Civil War Centennial project and has completely restored the fort’s northwest bastion. The other remaining earthworks have been preserved and the ceremonial gate and officers’ hut have been reconstructed. The Fort Ward Museum, adjacent to the fort, interprets the site’s history and features exhibits about the fort system and a variety of Civil War topics. The museum also contains a research library and a collection of Civil War artifacts, and it offers educational and interpretive programs throughout the year, including an interpretive video.

Fort C. F. Smith
Fort C. F. Smith is on a 19-acre estate that Arlington County, Virginia, acquired in 1995 and opened to the public in 1997. Plans are to preserve and interpret the earthworks in their existing condition. The tree canopy and stabilizing ground cover will be maintained. The park interprets the Civil War, the fort, the defenses of Washington, and the prehistory of the sites, landscape, archeology, and natural resources.

Fort Ethan Allen
Arlington County also owns and manages Fort Ethan Allen. Earthworks and trenches are evident in this location. Interpretive markers have been placed in the site, which is in a historic district.

Fort Whipple
Fort Whipple occupied the site of present-day Fort Myer, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. Although there are no remnants of the original defenses, an interpretive sign was placed at the site in the spring of 1998, and there are plans to acquire a cannon to mark the site.

Fairfax County Sites
A number of remnant Civil War fortifications are in Fairfax County, Virginia, but very little preservation or interpretation has been accomplished. The sites include unstabilized earthworks remaining at Fort Willard and a six-gun battery position near the location of Fort Farnsworth. A sign has been placed at a partial reconstruction of what is known as “Fort Freedom Hill” in Vienna, Virginia, which was a fortified position.

Battery Bailey
Battery Bailey is the sole remnant of the Civil War Defenses in Montgomery County, Maryland. The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission purchased the property in 1951, and the Montgomery County Department of Parks manages the site. The battery is in a park adjacent to the Westmoreland Hills Recreation Center. The earthworks have been stabilized and split-rail fencing surrounds the site to prevent foot traffic on the earthworks. A historical marker has been erected and an interpretive display faces the battery.

Did You Know?

map of WDC and Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont Plateau

The Civil War Defenses of Washington exist because of geology and topography. The strategic high ground where the fortifications are located stretches between two considerably different geologic terrains: the Piedmont Plateau to the north and west and the Atlantic Coastal Plain to the east.